Why Chicago Cubs Need to Win World Series for Ernie Banks

Friday night, the Chicago Cubs, which had been used to getting good news during the past few months, got a piece of devastatingly bad news: "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks, the greatest player in franchise history, died at the age of 83, per ESPN.com. Undoubtedly, the team will honor Banks by wearing a commemorative patch this season, but the Cubs must honor him by more than just wearing his patch on their jerseys—they must honor him with their play on the field. Banks, who made his debut on Sept. 17, 1953, was so many things to so many different people. He was a beacon of light for many African-Americans in Chicago, as he was the first black player to ever wear the Cubs uniform. He was a source of optimism for a fanbase that sorely needed it. Most importantly, he was a lover of baseball, and because of that, fans couldn't help but love him. You ...


Why Trading Yunel Escobar Was the Oakland Athletics’ Best Move of the Offseason

Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has had the busiest offseason of any GM, making nine trades involving 27 players in total. His most recent deal, swapping shortstop Yunel Escobar for Washington Nationals relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, was his best one of the winter. Beane acquired Escobar and utility man Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher John Jaso and prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell on January 10. The Athletics needed someone to fill in at short after allowing Jed Lowrie to walk, and they got their man from Tampa Bay. But it was Zobrist, not Escobar, as he was flipped to the Nationals for Clippard four days later. Shortstop is arguably the weakest offensive position in the league, and Escobar has long enjoyed a reputation as an above-average hitter. His best season came with the Atlanta Braves in 2009, when he hit .299/.377/.436. The problem is, he hasn't hit at such a ...


MLB’s Top 10 Can’t-Miss Pitching Prospects for the 2015 Season

Major League Baseball is being dominated by pitching, and that's only going to continue, judging by the flood of elite young arms who are on the verge of reaching The Show. Like these 10, who represent the sport's can't-miss prospects for the 2015 season. To avoid any confusion, that means these pitchers should be making a major impact in the upcoming year. Thus, you won't see elite arms like Lucas Giolito of the Washington Nationals, Tyler Glasnow of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Luis Severino of the New York Yankees, all of whom are a bit too far away to take the majors by storm this year. Same goes for 18-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Julio Urias. And, as always, to qualify as prospect-eligible, these arms cannot have pitched more than 50 innings in the majors or spent more than 45 days on the active roster. That eliminates, say, Taijuan Walker of the Seattle Mariners, who ...


The Next MLB Starting Pitchers Who Will Ascend to ‘Ace’ Status

Defining an "ace" pitcher in Major League Baseball is difficult because it's subjective. What's more, just about everyone has a different opinion on how many actual "aces" there are and whether specific pitchers qualify or come up just short. In some ways, however, it's simple: You know an ace when you see one. But in the interest of trying to make this exercise of identifying the sport's next aces-in-the-making a bit more objective, there needs to be some criteria. To qualify for this endeavor, a pitcher... Must have a legitimate chance to become a full-blown ace in 2015, as in this upcoming season Must never have placed in the top 10 in Cy Young Award voting to this point in his career Must not have more than five years of MLB service time Take careful note of these three standards, because the first requires a pitcher who is not only in relatively good health but also ready ...


MLB’s Arbitration-Eligible Stars Who Are the Biggest Bargains

In today's MLB—where Giancarlo Stanton inks a deal that could pay him nearly double the gross domestic product of the Republic of Kiribati—"bargain" is a relative term. Still, during their arbitration years, many players sign for less than what the market would bear. Sometimes far less. First, a quick primer on the arbitration process: Players with at least three but less than six years of MLB service time (or "Super Twos," an explanation too complicated for our purposes) can file for salary arbitration. If a team offers a player arbitration, and the player accepts, each side submits a dollar figure. The two sides can then work out a deal, either a compromise between the submitted figures or a long-term contract. If no deal is reached, the team and player argue their cases before a third-party arbitration panel, which picks either the player's or the team's figure. The panel must choose one or the other; it can't ...


San Francisco Giants’ Top 10 Prospects for 2015

While the San Francisco Giants’ system is top-heavy with pitching prospects, many of the organization’s top young arms profile as either back-end-starter types or guys who might not throw enough strikes to even stick in the rotation. Right-hander Kyle Crick, 22, might have the highest ceiling in the system, but both his control and command were a mess last season in the Eastern League. Clayton Blackburn, another right-hander, has the highest probability to reach his projected ceiling in the big leagues, as he has good command of a four-pitch mix to go along with a feel for sequencing.  Ty Blach, 23, is basically a left-handed version of Blackburn, as he lacks overpowering stuff but features advanced command of three pitches. And don’t sleep on hard-throwing right-hander Keury Mella, who's right there with Crick in the conversation for most upside. The Giants went after Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede in the first round (No. 14 overall) of the draft, ...


10 Biggest ‘Bang for Your Buck’ Offseason Moves

In this baseball age of advanced scouting, statistics and analytics, rarely do you find an undervalued player or the “bargains” of the winter. With players analyzed so thoroughly, no asset or weakness slips past the watchful eyes of the front office. Value is always recognized, now more than ever. Yet it is still possible for a team to get plenty of bang for its buck or to not have to pay wildly for potential high value. Whether through free agency or via trade, there have been several moves this fall and winter where the acquiring team not only picked up the player but also a clear win for its 2015 agenda. Some teams bought players relatively cheap, while others nabbed assets in trades that required them to part with relatively little. Whatever the case, each of these moves could go a long way in impacting division landscapes this coming season. As spring training approaches ...


Farewell to ‘Mr. Cub’ Ernie Banks, an Elegant Ambassador and All-Time Great

To spend time with Ernie Banks was to gain entrance into an endless summer. He was employed by the Chicago Cubs, but he belonged to all of us. Nobody, anywhere, could possibly represent either his profession or his calling with any more joy and grace than Banks did during 83 marvelous Hall of Fame years on this baseball diamond of an earth. The Cubs announced Banks died Friday night but didn't include a cause. His smile was effervescent, his soul was the warmth of a June afternoon, and his cackle was the sound of the rare man who has life figured out and isn't quite sure why the rest of us could be troubled, even for a second. And now on a sad day in January, it turns out that Wrigley Field isn't truly timeless. It only seems that way. What a dirty trick. Where does that time go? Where do the days disappear? One moment, a young Banks is ...


A Cubs Fan’s Tribute to the Legendary Ernie Banks

To some people, being a dedicated fan of the Chicago Cubs can seem like a struggle at times. Years—even generations—have come and gone without experiencing the long-coveted celebration of a Cubs World Series championship. For Ernie Banks, there was never a bad moment in being a Cubs fan. It was always wonderful. He realized to the fullest that being a Cubs fan was a privilege and a joy every single day. Sure, there were difficult times, but all of those struggles would make that inevitable World Series championship that much sweeter. Most Cubs fans have been waiting 'til next year. Ernie always believed this was the year. Born to Eddie and Essie Banks on January 31, 1931, Banks grew up in Dallas as the second-oldest of 12 children. It was clear even from his youth that he was a talented athlete, as he was a three-letter athlete in high school—although none of those sports included baseball. It ...


Cubs Legend Ernie Banks Dies at Age 83

Legendary Chicago Cubs player and Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks has died at the age of 83.  According to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune, Banks' wife Liz confirmed the news of her husband's passing. "Ernie Banks, one of baseball’s most ebullient and optimistic ambassadors, died Friday, his wife, Liz, confirmed," Mitchell wrote. NBC Nightly News tweeted out this statement from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about Banks' legacy: MLB released a graphic of Ron Santo and Harry Caray greeting Banks in heaven: Few players in professional sports are as synonymous with one franchise as Banks is with the Cubs. His nickname is "Mr. Cub" after spending all 19 of his MLB seasons with the Chicago franchise. He held the franchise record for home runs when he retired (512), though the mark was broken by Sammy Sosa in 2004.  Banks, who posted a career .274/.330/.500 slash line, was named National League MVP in 1958 and 1959, while finishing ...


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